This old flowerhead of Macledium spinosum is heavily armoured by sharp-pointed spines. The spines decrease in size to the top, the lower rows being straight and thin, the upper two rows having flat surfaces at the base that cohere in their lower parts to hide the contents they protect. This is the function performed by involucral bracts around flowerheads of so many plant species.
The topmost row of spine-tipped bracts completes the structure of the sub-globular container, fully covering the seed and all its remaining supports. The bract tip spines point upwards, warding off enemy attacks from the sky until such time as the ripe seeds are ready for release; hopefully in favourable conditions for the next generation of M. spinosum to germinate successfully somewhere around in the ground.
But plants don’t hope; they just do to the best of their abilities, giving new life wherever conditions allow. All the living plants and resident animals together form the veld, a living entity in the collective sense, an ecology fit to be home for all existing and aspiring species that meet local demands. And all that dies remains vitally important collectively for bestowing the nutritional substances from which all that lives may do so (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010).